U.S. leans on Japan over Hague abduction treaty

WASHINGTON (Kyodo) The United States is increasing pressure on Japan to join a pact to deal with child custody issues linked to failed international marriages, according to an annual report recently issued by the U.S. State Department.

The report, delivered to Congress on May 21, assesses compliance by other countries with the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

Japan is not a party to the convention, which provides a procedure for promptly returning abducted children to their habitual country of residence and protects parental access rights.

The annual report details U.S. efforts to raise public awareness of the issue, including a May 2009 seminar in Tokyo addressing the issue of children who are wrongfully taken from their home country by a parent.

The U.S. Embassy in Tokyo also pressed Japan to join the treaty by issuing a joint statement with the embassies of Britain, Canada and France expressing the four countries’ concerns regarding the issue.

According to the report, which covers the period between October 2008 to September 2009, Japan had the seventh-highest incidence of reported parental abductions from the United States, with 23 cases involving 34 children.

The Japanese cases were a mere fraction of the 1,135 incidents confirmed in the report. The total comprised 1,621 children abducted to 124 countries and territories, with Mexico at the top of the list, with over 300.

The issue of parental abduction has been a long-standing problem between Japan and the United States, with the State Department reporting 269 abducted children since 1994, according to reports by the U.S. Congress.

The problem has received increased attention in the United States since the September 2009 arrest in Fukuoka Prefecture of American Christopher Savoie, who traveled there in an attempt to reclaim his two children, who had been illegally taken from the U.S. by his former wife, who is Japanese.